The most ‘complete’ set of Handel’s music for solo keyboard ever issued in a single release, this box is also testament to the taste and expertise of two superb musicians who have been immersed in the stylish performance of Baroque music for decades. Michael Borgstede’s recording of 15 suites was first released by Brilliant in 2008, and won warm opinions for the same qualities that graced his discs of Bach, Forqueray and Couperin: ‘spruce performances,’ according to Gramophone, ‘consistent in textural clarity, crisp ornamentation and level-headed grasp of the music.’
Now the four discs of the suites are joined by new recordings, previously unissued, made by Roberto Loreggian, who masterminded the complete Frescobaldi Edition (BC94111) on Brilliant Classics. These include many single-movement airs and fugues that were probably written for instructional purposes while he was active as a teacher, both in Hamburg and in service to the Duke of Chandos. Although Handel became music tutor to the children of the Prince of Wales (later George II) in the early 1720s, he does not seem to have composed any significant new harpsichord works as teaching aids for them, apart from the two charming suites (HWV447, 452) written for Princess Louisa in 1739.
Across these eight discs and the decades that Handel spent composing the music on them, in between the operas and oratorios that were the principal source of his fame in his own lifetime, we may readily perceive both a mastery of his instrument as well as a more playful attitude to its capacities than is demonstrated by Bach in both his virtuoso and didactic works for keyboard. He was also even more ready than his Leipzig contemporary to reuse material, especially melodies, where it suited him to place them in another context, and so tunes from his vocal works can frequently be encountered in the dances and airs.
The box includes extensive booklet notes by both Borgstede and Loreggian: it is an essential purchase for anyone familiar with Handel only through the restricted canon of his popular classics such as Messiah and the Water Music.
This 8CD set contains the complete harpsichord works by Handel!
Handel was, like his contemporaries J.S. Bach and Scarlatti, a formidable keyboard player, a virtuoso displaying “an uncommon brilliancy and command of finger” (Handel’s first biographer John Mainwaring). Although Handel’s focus was on opera and oratorio (much more commercial…) his output for the harpsichord is of high quality, great variety and instrumental originality.
Handel’s best known and popular works for the harpsichord are the 8 great suites, beautiful melodious works written for professionals and amateurs. Further he wrote a great quantity of separate preludes, fugues, lessons, dances, chaconnes.
Excellent performances by two keyboard specialists: the suites are played by Michael Borgstede: “textual clarity, crisp ornamentation and complete grasp of the music” (Gramophone). The other works are played by one of the foremost Italian keyboard players, Roberto Loreggian, who recorded successfully for Brilliant Classics works by Frescobaldi, Gabrieli and Vivaldi.